An intersection of memory and experience

We go through different stages and levels of imprinting in our lives.  Most of us get excited and nostalgic for things from various point in our youth.  For example, we all feel an emotional connection to, say, Saturday morning cartoons we used to watch as a kid.  When we pass by a tv set and hear a familiar character, we stop and check it out for a second because it's something that resonates with us, even though it would be a throw-away artifact of our culture for the population outside of that time.

While media like movies and pop songs and such are just external products of corporate machines, it's the stories about our past that are what really make us who we are.  In order to have those things, you really need two things:  Memory and awareness.

Interestingly, those faculties have opposing developmental curves.  Memory is razor-sharp in our youth.  We acquire thousands of words of our native language in a matter of a few years.  We remember names of bands and musicians and the words to their songs in just a few listenings.  As adults, we're always surprised at the savant-like feats of memory that kids exhibit, especially in the apparent absence of a significant amount of self-awareness.

While memory trails off over time and weakens by our twilight years to that of the proverbial goldfish, our awareness takes the reverse path.  We start off as little more than a clumsy blob of reflexes that gradually becomes aware of ourselves, others' thoughts and feelings, and the enormity of the world as a whole and the possibilities present in it.  That process is on-going for most of us, hopefully through to the end of our lives.

What happens somewhere along the way is a sort of intersection in these two paths where impressionable memory collides with a budding sense of self and life in general.  When I think back to the times when I was in college and grad school, there's a clarity of memory about those years that is borne out of finally acquiring some sense that I didn't have just a few years before.

I mean, how well do any of us remember high school, let alone elementary or junior high?  I can't believe that these periods of my life were truly so boring that I have virtually no good stories out of those years.  Statistically, it couldn't have been that forgettable.  Contrast this with all the memories I've turned into text and posted on here about my college years.  Granted, some of this is just nostalgia or bits I've plundered on recent archeological expeditions through my email from those years.  Sometimes the stories are of more emotional interest to me than any punchline I can use them to deliver, but I have a wealth more material from my late adolescence than I do from a more recent years, and not for quantitatively or qualitatively greater experiences during that time; it's just the product of a synergy that peaked when two mental attributes intersected in their maturity.

Copyright 2007 Alexplorer.
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